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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Stop engaging with the far right. Seriously.


Gary Birdsong, aka "The Pit Preacher," looks on as UNC junior exercise and sport science major Michael Spragley freestyles in the Pit on Sept. 10, 2021.

In an era of nonstop controversy and political polarization, it’s easy to get swept up in an argument. 

We regularly see UNC students arguing with an angry Pit Preacher, attempting to lambast his outdated views. There are certainly times when such arguments are worthwhile – and even important – but we’ve seemingly digressed from these productive arguments. Our current hyper-partisan political climate is to blame.

Political discourse no longer centers the role of the government in the economy or in advancing the rights of historically marginalized groups. Rather, it has turned into baseless discussions about things like “wokeness” and whether or not the COVID-19 vaccine is secretly putting magnets in us. Far-right conservatives who take these stances have strayed from any sense of logic. There’s not a single ounce of truth in any of these extreme conservative rhetorics.

So, how can you argue with such illogical viewpoints? You can’t.

If somebody’s argument lacks any logic, then there’s genuinely no point in even trying to reason with them. They didn’t come to these conclusions with a rational mind, so a rational argument certainly won’t dissuade them.

And if there’s no progress to be made in arguing with these absurd beliefs, then why are we so intent on doing so anyways?

A few months ago, a far-right “influencer” gained traction through a series of misogynistic TikTok videos that were reposted – or duetted – by users with rebuttals of their own. Sure, what the original user was saying is bigoted. But by duetting these videos, all respondents did was give more air to the fire. 

Had other users not duetted these videos, he may have never made an entire career out of the public outrage he has caused.

Countless people have gone viral on social media solely because they posted offensive content that outraged other users. And, of course, it’s easy to be outraged. Far right users can post prejudiced and often blatantly untrue things, but devoting time to try to convince them otherwise is a futile endeavor.

If somebody truly believes that America is being taken over by drag queens and a woke virus, then it’s impractical to try to argue against the brain rot that’s so clearly set in in their mind. 

We're not saying ignoring everything you disagree with is the best course of action, but there’s a distinction between arguing with someone you can inform and someone whose entire Friday is spent yelling at college students on their campus. 

After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Large groups of people spending their time trying to “cancel” or “deplatform” these people by spreading their content and increasing engagement is a complete waste of time. You’re bringing them more and more attention and helping spread their message. 

Social media has convinced people that online activism is a completely effective method of creating change, and while it sometimes can be, far-right extremism presents an exception.

Donald Trump, for instance, built his entire 2016 presidential campaign out of outrage. While he was initially polling lower than other Republican candidates, the incessant coverage of him in the media and on late night shows (thanks, Saturday Night Live) spread his reach farther and farther.

It’s your choice how you choose to spend your time. But the next time you engage with some unsubstantiated claim online, consider just ignoring it. You could be the difference between it only having 10 views and going viral.


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